I’m conflicted here.
We already know psychics are frauds, but should the government ban the practice of fortune-tellers? It’s hard to know when we should prevent people from making claims about the future. Where does one draw a line between horoscope writers and pastors who claim that God knows your future?
At least commercials for psychics tend to include the fine print about how they’re for “entertainment purposes only.” (Just like commercials for baldness cures and penis enlargers always say “results may vary” as a way to cover their butts.)
At the same time, I really don’t like what Nick Nefedro is trying to do.
Nefedro is a self-described Gypsy who is suing the city of Bethesda, Maryland because they denied him a license to practice fortune-telling.
Nefedro found a location to rent [for his fortune-telling businesses] about two years ago and applied for a business license. He was denied. In May 2008, he filed a lawsuit, which he lost. Now, with the ACLU on board, he wants to continue the fight.
“I don’t think it’s strange for us to have laws that protect against fraud,” said Clifford Royalty, zoning division chief in the Montgomery County attorney’s office, adding that “religion has nothing to do with it. He’s not made that allegation in the lawsuit.”
“The practice is fraudulent,” Royalty said, “because no one can forecast the future.”
Nefedro insists that he can.
“It’s not like you choose it,” Nefedro said. “You’re born with it.”
He said he noticed at a young age that he saw things that no one else could see.
“Some people just see a palm, or see the cards,” Nefedro said. “I see a sign in it.”
He’s delusional. Yet, I don’t doubt his sincerity. I don’t think he’s trying to intentionally rip people off. He really does believe he has special powers… but that doesn’t mean he’s right.
Maybe a key difference is that he doesn’t think of his “skill” as “entertainment only.”
But how is his sincere belief in his fortune-telling abilities any different from a pastor sincerely telling you he knows what God wants?
Both are quacks, both pay no attention to the evidence against their claims, both take in lots of money, but it makes no sense to say you can allow one but not the other.
For that matter, what about people like Jim Cramer who claim to know where the markets are heading and make money off their (often false) predictions?
(Thanks to Scott for the link!)